Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pay it forward

I am a big believer in "paying it forward". I know, from personal experience, that helping someone out or doing something nice for someone makes the world a better place. When that person you support helps someone else, and on and on, the movement spreads.

I consider Twitter a perfect example of paying it forward. I find something to share I feel my followers will benefit from and, if they think so, they send it off to their followers, and the benefits multiply! 

If I see some great link or idea or thought from the people I follow on Twitter, I re-tweet it to my followers, and am happy to have found something of interest for them.

I don't follow everyone who follows me on Twitter. As much as I would like to, I currently have over 22,000 educators who follow me on Twitter. I consider it an obligation to provide them with links, ideas, things I discover, and upcoming events of interest. I do throw in some personal things at times. I am hoping that is okay with them.

I follow 212 people on Twitter. They are educators who provide me with great ideas, have different networks than I do and retweet items I never would have seen, and are always there when I have a question or concern. 

Of course, unless I follow a person on Twitter, they cannot direct message me. Some followers get very upset they cannot direct message me and chide me for not following them. That's silly. I hone my PLN to what I need and keep it manageable to make sure it is useful. It is in constant flux as I follow and unfollow tweeters. In addition, my email address is in my Twitter profile (something I suggest everyone should do) and any one of my followers can email me at any time!


I look at the profile of each person who follows me on Twitter as they begin to follow me. It is disheartening to me that many educators continue to protect their tweets. They are not paying it forward, in my opinion. I want to visit their profile, see the things they are tweeting, and decide if I want to follow them. I don't want to be forced into picking to follow them, waiting for them to approve me, then checking out what they post, and then decide to continue to follow them or unfollow them.










Tweets from users who have protected accounts do not show up in a Twitter search. I also didn't think others could re-tweet tweets from those that protect their tweets. I actually was unsure about this, so I asked my twitter followers.

My tweet:


Here are the first few answers I received (read from the bottom up)


I found Ben's initial comment and then follow-up interesting, but true. Although Susan said the same thing about cutting and pasting. And my favorite was from Greg, who agrees with me, that teachers need to "tweet in public" and not protect their tweets.

And Ben, who tells teachers that it is their digital footprint and their choice to keep their tweets protected, also stated:


(Late addition: I am getting mixed messages on whether you can or cannot re-tweet protected tweets. It may be dependent on the browser-based version or whether you are using a specific Twitter client.)

I truly believe that collaboration and sharing and participating are really important in social networks. I encourage teachers who feel they have personal stuff in their Twitter account, that they don't want the world to see, to create a personal Twitter account and protect that one. 

Keep your professional account wide open so others can see the great things you are tweeting, easily follow you to keep up with your new ideas and thoughts, and can re-tweet your super ideas to their Twitter followers!

Please pay it forward!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snow Day Fun!

Well, we are still in the throes of a blizzard and I have no Internet access, no Wi-Fi, no cell service, and most of what I want to work on is in the cloud. (Note to self: keep copies locally when a blizzard is approaching!)


The SmartScope iGo
However, I did have a new gadget to review, and I managed to get to that! The item is the SmartScope iGo Wi-Fi microscope. It is a handheld microscope that works with both the iPad and iPad Mini, Android tablets, and the iPhone and Android phones. You can hook up to three mobile devices at once to each SmartScope iGo.




 



When you turn the microscope on, it creates an ad-hoc (private) network between itself and the iPad/Android devices. You simply look at your settings in Wi-Fi area on your mobile device and chose the microscope's network. The password to join the private network is a default password that can be changed. (Quick start instructions.)

Ad-hoc Network
You then simply launch the free Wi-Viewer app, which allows what is shown on the microscope to be shown on the mobile device’s screen. (Since you are on a private wireless network, the Reflector app will not work to mirror the iPad's screen, since the desktop and laptop have to be on the same Wi-Fi network. I connected to the ad-hoc network with the desktop, but Reflector would not allow mirroring.) To showcase what is on the iPad or Android device’s screen you will need a VGA connection to a projector or an AppleTV.



Item I viewed with the SmartScope iGo


View of the item using the Scope and the Wi-Viewer App


However, there is a simple way to solve this built right into the Wi-Viewer app! You can choose to record the entire microscopy session! The file is saved as an AVI file, which I was able to get off of the iPad and onto the Mac desktop through the Apps File Sharing section in iTunes. I could then open the AVI file in the VLC app and I also easily converted the AVI file to an MP4 file to be able to play natively on the Mac.

The wireless SmartScope iGo microscope has all its features right at your fingertips when using the device. These include the focus button, the knob to increase or decrease the LED lights as needed, and a button to quickly take a snapshot that saves to the iPad’s or Android’s Photo app. The microscope comes with 3 rechargeable batteries and a charger and is rated to allow you about 3.5 hours of microscope use on a charge.



Video recording using the SmartScope iGo (no sound)


Screen for viewing the recordings


The magnification choices, when using a full-size iPad, is 1x - 80x. I was using the iPad Mini, so my magnification was different. The Wi-Viewer app software has a quick start button to begin and end the recordings, the ability to view the recording on the iPad, and also has an image capture button. I can definitely see one of these devices for every two students in a lab setting, with one controlling the recording and images and the other student actually controlling the SmartScope iGo. And, as the teacher, you can hook up to each SmartScope iGo being used and both view and record what each pair of students is doing since up to three mobile devices can hook to one Scope. The mobile device and the SmartScope iGo can be up to 10 meters apart and still connect.

The cost of the SmartScope iGo is $329, and there is an optional gooseneck stand available for $99 or a cradle for $49 . Contact info@smartschoolsystems.com if you want more information or wish to inquire about volume purchasing.

P.S.
Now, to get this project together without Wi-Fi, during the blizzard, I used Bluetooth to connect the Mover+ app on the iPhone to the iPad Mini to gather all the images onto one device. I then used the desktop component, Mover Connect, to move all the images to the desktop so I could work on this blog post. (Again using Bluetooth.) Since we still did not have Internet access, I moved the Word file, the images, and the video back to the iPad Mini via the AirDIsk Pro app and then used the Blogger app to post it. Just in case you were wondering!


Thursday, February 07, 2013

It's all about choice!

This is a re-posting of a guest post to the SmartBlog on Education blog which appeared on February 6, 2013. It is tagged in their "emerging technologies" section.
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I am a gadget geek. And I love my iPad. However, there are plenty of other choices on the market today, and I have come to realize that a mix of devices may be a better choice in the educational setting.


The Apple App Store is full of well-vetted and useful software. When you hear “there is an app for that,” it seems to be true! From content-based applications that can be used for everything from remediation to enrichment, and apps that let students create videos, audios, simulations, infographics and more, the use of the iPad to support teaching and learning is truly remarkable!

However, the iPad really shines as a one-to-one device. Personalization, choice of apps and work that lives locally on the device makes you feel connected with your iPad. A shared cart of iPads, although something that is affordable for schools, is probably not the best choice. Taking care of the installation of apps and maintenance of the devices, as well as providing a positive experience for each shared user, is not easy. I often suggest schools keep a cart of iPads in a single classroom, have the teacher and students document their successes (and failures) and provide the rationale to extend the model of a one-to-one initiative to other classrooms.



I recommend the Google Chromebook for a shared cart of devices. In conjunction with becoming a Google Apps for Education school or district, the Chromebook allows easy access to each shared user’s content. Since each user’s work lives in the cloud, and the Chromebook makes it easy to log on to the device, it is perfect for a shared environment. There are many extensions for the Chrome browser that allow you to do everything from editing images to using a math equation editor. And, the Chrome operating system lets the user work on Google Docs and Spreadsheets when not connected to the Internet and syncs them up when you do get in a wireless environment. The Samsung Chromebook has a solid state drive and boots up within seconds, has a school-day-long battery life, and is less than $250.



Android devices are another choice for classroom use. Google Play, the app store for Android devices, is chock-full of apps, but is not as tightly controlled or vetted as the Apple App Store. I have seen some districts choose the Kindle Fire as their Android-based tablet of choice. Kindle devices do not natively have access to the Google Play store, but have a smaller group of apps available in the Kindle Fire Apps store. If your school has settled on the Android platform, I suggest going with an Android device that can access all the apps in the Google Play store, such as the Google Nexus 7 or Nexus 10 or other Android-based models such as Acer, Samsung, Asus, Motorola, Toshiba, Lenovo and Sony. (I am a Sony Education Ambassador and have the Sony Experia Tablet Z which is a very nice choice!)



Another crop of tablets run on the Windows operating system. Microsoft makes the Surface and Surface 2 tablets that host a version of Windows called Windows RT. Windwos RT includes access to the Office suite, but other apps must be installed from the Windows App store. (Added 11/16/13: The Windows Surface RT can not join a domain if that is something you need to have it do in your school.) The Surface is also available with Windows Pro, which will run all the Windows programs that you can now run on your desktop. However, there are also some great 10.1-inch tablets available right now that run the full version of Windows 8, such as the Samsung Ativ Smart PC , the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 and the Asus VivoTab Smart. I was impressed with the keyboard docks available for these devices. The keyboards give the tablets a clamshell design, like a regular laptop.

(Added 1/24/14: I recently picked up the Dell Venue 8" Pro Windows tablet. It runs the full version of Windows 8.1 and is low-cost. The items on the screen are a bit small, but it still amazes me that I can carry around a device with Windows in one hand! The tablet is speedy, has a front an back camera, a micro-SD slot, and you can hook up an external DVD drive, HDD, or flash drive with an adapter like this one. The screen size would not meet the size requirements for the CCSS tests, but, if that is not a concern, give this one a look!) 

Choices are good, and a mix of devices and operating systems should be considered in the school setting. Take the time to try each one out, and pick the one that is best suited for the grade level, teaching environment, and what best gets the technology out of the way and allows learning to occur!